Thursday, 1 November 2012

Literature in Romantic period


The period which started with the French Revolution or the publication of lyrical ballads is known as the Romantic Movement; some says “liberalism in literature” where one can freely express their imagination. Lord Byron called it the age of oddities. Certainly, I think, that is a good way to look at the British Romantic Period. Besides Byron, the other primary writers of the time are William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Southey, Charles Lamb, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, John Keats, William Godwin, Lee Hunt, Jane Austen and many others. The five pillars of romantic period were Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelly and Keats whose poems always had spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings with imagination. This was the period when new waves of dramas, poems, poetic dramas which can be read and enjoyed by the reader came.
The romantic age, if we could put it together, we can call it the age of transition. A lot of political unrest, a lot of radical ideas are being thought about and expressed, and of course, wars are happening. There's a focus on the foreign, the exotic, on being frivolous, and, of course, that comes down from the leadership in England. The poets see this as an opportunity for a new order; for a new way to express ideas, and certainly, the Romantic period does reflect those ideas.

Novelists of the Romantic Age:
The great novelists of the Romantic period are Jane Austen and Scott, but before them there appeared some novelists who came under the spell of medievalism and wrote novels of ‘terror’ or the ‘Gothic novels’. The origin of this type of fiction can be ascribed to Horace Walpole’s “The Castle of Otranto”. There were a number of imitators of such a type of novel during the eighteenth century as well as in the Romantic period for example Frankenstein written by Mary Shelly. Jane Austin’s works like Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma or The Great Expectations by Charles Dickens were the biggest romantic novels from this age.

Theory of Poetry:
Poetry had the most important change in literature from common sense to expression of imagination overflowing with imagination in this period. One can say “Poetry is the thought and the words in which emotion spontaneously embodies itself”. As for Wordsworth he says “all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,” to this statement, however Wordsworth has added that, “It takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity”. At first glance, these two are quite opposite to each other, the one coming on a sudden, and the other deliberately called to memory, but Wordsworth makes no difference between two and tries to explain one by the other. For Wordsworth, a poet writes only when he is inspired because only then his ideas spontaneously flow out of his mind and he creates poetry of high order. According to Wordsworth, deep emotion is the basic condition of poetry that can be written on any subject which is of human interest; this stress on spontaneity is clear disavowal of neo-classical tents. Wordsworth theory of poetry can hardly be over-estimated or over-praised, thus through the breathless efforts, Wordsworth gives a new trend to poetry, which was in 18th century considered as “a hopeless product of intelligence playing upon the surface of life”. Wordsworth’s definitions of poetry, adds that poets are unique. He maintains that poetry is more philosophical than any other branch of knowledge. He likes the poet to a prophet who is endowed with a greater knowledge of life and nature.

Woman writers of the Age:
Aphra Ben was the first English woman who earned through her pen and the most inventive and versatile authors of the restoration age, wrote poems and 15 successful plays. It was during this period that woman assumed for the first time, an important place in English literature, the most important ones were Jane Austin and Anne Radcliffe.

Lyrical Ballads:
Wordsworth’s Preface to the Lyrical Ballads declares the dawn of English Romantic Movement. Wordsworth and Coleridge, with the publication of the Lyrical Ballads, break away with the neo-classical tendencies in poetry. As the reading people are not familiar with his new type of poetry, Wordsworth puts forward a preface to this book. In this preface, he tells us about the form and contents of this new type of poetry. Wordsworth, in the beginning, states the necessity of bringing about a revolution in the realm of poetry as the Augustan poetry has become cliché. He painfully notices that the Eighteenth century poets have separated poetry from the grasp of common people. He resolves to liberate this poetry from the shackles of so- called classical doctrines. He, in collaboration with his friend Coleridge, begins to write poem for the people of all classes. Wordsworth thinks that the language of the Augustan poetry is highly artificial and sophisticated. That is why he suggests a new language for Romantic poetry. This is why he suggests a new language for Romantic poetry. This is why he suggests a new language for Romantic poetry. These attempt chiefly deals with Wordsworth’s views of poetry. T. S. Eliot, in his The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, objects to Wordsworth’s view. Eliot tells that a poet should not imitate the language of a particular class because he ought to have a language of his own. Eliot’s view gains ground as Wordsworth in his later poems, fails to use his prescribed language.
Wordsworth rejection of classical doctrines leads to the creation of a new type of poetry which prefers him emotions to reason. As a result a group of talented poet’s has emerged in the province of English poetry. At the same time, he has contributed to the field of literary criticism. If Blake is considered to be the precursor of romantic poetry, Wordsworth and Coleridge are the two early exponents of romantic poetry. And it is wise of Wordsworth to form a ground for this new poetry through the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads.

Ode is a type of lyrical verse. A classic ode is structured in three major parts: the strophe, the antistrophe, and the epode. Ode may be defined as “a rimmed lyric, often in form of an address; generally dignified or exalted verse, directed to a fixed purpose, and dealing progressively with dignified theme”. In this age Keats made ode famous through his works like “Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn”. Ode written by Keats reached the height of perfection and subjectivity. It was primarily under the influence of negative capability. He wanted to attain that perfection in negative capability which Shakespeare had achieved in his dramas. 

Wordsworth and Romanticism: (First generation poet)

Wordsworth's poetry reflects upon the many exciting changes that occurred in society during his era and upon aspects of his own history. He lived in the country side, here Wordsworth experienced a time of intense exploration of the countryside, exploration which provided much of the inspiration for his poetry for example The Nutting and The Prelude. First he began to write poetry and read for pleasure. Through his poetry he attempted to combine the knowledge he gained from books with the emotion and sensitivity to Nature he gained from his early life. Wordsworth lived in an exciting era for poetry, living through the American War of Independence, the French Revolution (of which he was at first strong supporter). Early in the 18th century poets looked to control Nature and sophistically manipulate language, however the excitement of the political revolutions inspired a poetic revolution.

Keats and Romanticism: (Second generation poet)

       Romantic poets, because of their theories of literature and life, were drawn to lyrical poetry; they even developed a new form of ode, often called the romantic meditative ode.  Keats often associated love and pain both in his life and in his poetry. Keats's imagery ranges among all our physical sensations: sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, temperature, weight, pressure, hunger, thirst, sexuality, and movement. Keats repeatedly combines different senses in one image. Like all romantics, Keats loves nature and its varied charms .He has a vivid sense of colour, and he transfigures everything into beauty .Keats was famous for his odes, "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn”. One can say that the typical movement of the romantic ode: The poet, unhappy with the real world, escapes or attempts to escape into the ideal. Disappointed in his mental flight, he returns to the real world. Usually he returns because human beings cannot live in the ideal or because he has not found what he was seeking. But the experience changes his understanding of his situation, of the world.
The brief span of Keats's life fell within, what is known as the age of Romantic age in English Literature. His poetry is a fine example of highly romantic poetry; in fact, it touched almost all the aspects of romantic poetry: love of beauty, love of nature, love of the past, supernaturalism, glow of emotion, and last but not the least in importance, the revealing power of imagination.

Finally one can say that the romantic age made man to imagine with his feelings, thus resulting in making of many poets and authors who gave many famous works of this genre. Even in modern times we can see many authors who use their wild imagination to describe their love, nature, dreams, etc.

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